Gallaudet University Press

8:7 Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Exorcizing a Personal Demon

Through Personal Letters, A Woman's Scorn  
Turns to Admiration

Imagine growing up and constantly being compared to someone famous, dead or alive. Someone whose perpetually cheerful, never complaining, triumphing-over-adversity demeanor seemed so high, it appeared impossible to achieve. Now imagine writing a letter to that person telling them how much you hated them because of the constant comparisons. What would you say? How would you feel? Georgina Kleege, author of Blind Rage: Letters to Helen Keller, did just that.

“Dear Helen Keller,” Kleege begins, “Allow me to introduce myself. I am a writer and part-time English professor. I am American, married, middle-aged, middle class. Like you, I am blind, though not deaf. But the most important thing you need to know about me, and the reason for my letter, is that I grew up hating you. Sorry to be so blunt, especially on such short acquaintance, but one of the advantages of writing to a dead person is there’s no need to stand on ceremony. And you should know the truth from the start. I hated you because you were always held up to me as a role model, and one who set such an impossibly high standard of cheerfulness in the face of adversity. ‘Why can’t you be more like Helen Keller?’ people always said to me. Or that’s what it felt like whenever your name came up. ‘Count your blessings,’ they told me. ‘Yes, you’re blind, but poor little Helen Keller was blind and deaf, and no one ever heard her complain.’”

Most people revered Helen Keller as a symbol of human fortitude in the face of adversity. Contrarily, for Georgina Kleege, Keller always represented an example she could not hope to emulate, in turn, causing Kleege to resent her. In Blind Rage, Kleege employs the use of personal letters to delve beneath the surface of this seemingly happy-go-lucky demeanor and, in the end, comes to appreciate the true Helen Keller.

Read an excerpt from part one, and order Blind Rage online. You will receive 20% off the regular price by typing “JULY0620%” in the “Comments or Special Instructions” box below your credit card information. You may also order by mail.

Kudos goes to the remarkable team of native ASL signers, linguists, and editors who worked for more than six years to create The Gallaudet Dictionary of American Sign Language. In its latest issue, Library Journal exclaims: “For beginning signers, this book and DVD set is an excellent resource to help practice signs and expand vocabulary. For advanced signers, others in the deaf community, and anyone interested in American Sign Language (ASL), this is an excellent vocabulary reference book. For libraries, public and academic alike, this is an essential acquisition.” Wisconsin Bookwatch, the library newsletter from The Midwest Book Review, chimes in with: “The Gallaudet Dictionary of American Sign Language is a straightforward and practical reference. Consisting of 3,000 entries, The Gallaudet Dictionary of American Sign Language includes a simple black-and-white diagram for signing each word, as well as an index and a full-color DVD featuring a diverse group of native ASL signers demonstrating the words. An introduction walking readers through the basics of ASL rounds out this superb and definitive reference.” View select illustrations, and order your copy today.

Hannah Joyner’s From Pity to Pride: Growing Up Deaf in the Old South received recognition in The Journal of American History: “In From Pity to Pride, the historian Hannah Joyner offers a carefully considered and well-documented study that centers on the education and coming of age of several prominent white Deaf men in the antebellum South. This sophisticated study will be appreciated by general readers and respected by scholars with interests in education, sign language, family history, and the ascension of a national Deaf community.” In addition, The Journal of Southern History sums up Joyner’s unique and fascinating account by stating, “We need to build on useful monographs such as this one to explain the historically specific instructions of the meaning of deafness and, more broadly, disability.” In From Pity to Pride, Hannah Joyner depicts in striking detail the circumstances of those who were called “victims” of a “terrible misfortune” while also making it clear that Deaf people in the North endured prejudice, too. She explains how the cultural rhetoric of paternalism and dependency in the South codified a stringent system of oppression and hierarchy that left little room for self-determination for Deaf southerners. Read more in chapter seven, “With the Eyes to Hear and the Hands to Speak”, and order From Pity to Pride.

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